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tv   Meet the Press  MSNBC  December 5, 2010 2:00pm-3:00pm EST

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allowed to have visitors by video. and the young woman identified as h.g. has left wichita to build a w life somewhere else and she has since gotten married. this sunday, as the president makes a surprise one-day trip to afghanistan, washington feels the full weight of a sour economy, with the jobless rate creeping up to 9.8% in november, a seven-month high. still, no deal on taxes or unemployment benefits. despite a summit-like sitdown between the president and republican leaders. and a democratic attempt to force the issue in the house. >> this is nonsense, all right? the election was one month ago.
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we're 23 months from the next election and the political games have already started, trying to set up the next election. >> can there be agreement? and what about the rest of the crowded agenda of the lame duck session of congress and beyond? the s.t.a.r.t. nuclear arms treaty with russia, the ban on gays and lesbians in the military. and the now stalled debt commission report. at the center of it all, my lead newsmaker guest this morning, republican leader of the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky. and for the democrats, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, john kerry of massachusetts. then, america's anxiety. when will the economy turn around? are taxes going up? how vulnerable are we to another terrorist attack? can anything get done in congress? who leads us out in this sense of limbo? our roundtable weighs in, columnist of the "new york
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times" columnist tom friedman and david brooks, republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. good morning. a political showdown yesterday as the senate met in a special saturday session. republicans blocked and effort to extend tax cuts to the middle class only, which would have raised tax rates on higher earners. the president speaking after the vote seemed to keep a door open to compromise. >> we need to redouble our efforts to revolve this impasse in the next few days to give the american people the peace of mind that their taxes will not go up on january 1st. it will require some compromise, but i'm confident that we can get it done. >> joining me now exclusively, top republican in the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky, welcome back to the program. welcome to the studio. good to have you here. >> good morning. >> where are we? are you close to a deal with the president on taxes? >> let's put it this way.
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we've had more conversations in the last two weeks than we have had in the last two years. i think that's a good sign, growing awareness that the power will be more symmetrical in the next congress. and i'm optimistic we'll be able to come together. >> what are the contours of what the deal might look like? >> i'm not going to negotiate it here on "meet the press" this morning. but i think you're familiar with issues that are exiten temperature. the big issue on the public mind, of course, is whether or not we're going to raise taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession. and it is almost laughable that we were in session yesterday. it reminded me of the old movie "groundhog day." we keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. voting once again on the tax issue, it could have been dealt with at any point during the course of the year. here we are at the end of the year. i think it's pretty clear now taxes are not going up in the middle of this recession. we're discussing how long we should maintain current tax rates. and there are other issues that many people feel are important to address.
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>> let's break some of those down. how long of an extension could you agree to? a lot of talk of it being temporary, a year or two. >> well, i don't want to frustrate you, but i'm not going to negotiate that on the show this morning. >> but the notion of temporary extension is something you could live with, whatever that exact figure is? >> i would prefer to do it permanently. >> right. >> you and i have discussed that on earlier shows. i think the current tax rate is appropriate for our country. it's been in place for ten years. obviously, the president won't sign a permanent extension of the current tax rates. so, we're going to have some kind of an extension. i would like one as long as possible. >> but you're comfortable that rates will not go up on anyone in america? >> i'm very hopeful that rates are not going to go up. what we saw yesterday in the senate, every single republican and five democrats voted we shouldn't be raising taxes on anybody. in other words, bipartisan opposition to raising taxes on anybody at this time. >> what about extending unemployment benefits? you have said in the past we're in the middle of a jobs crisis. that being the case, could you
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then agree to an extension of jobless benefits as part of any tax cut package? >> i think we will extend unemployment compensation. we've had some very vigorous debates. in the senate not about whether to do for it but whether to pay for it as opposed to adding it to the deficit. all of those discussions are still under way. >> do he sense there is a mandate from the american people to keep tax rates where they are? >> i and my members feel strongly that the taxes shouldn't go up. i know that our colleagues on the other side do not see it that way. all republicans in the senate and a significant number of democrats feel the same way. it isn't going to happen. >> what about the impact on jobs? senator reid on the floor of the senate this week said it's fantasy to believe that somehow this is going to be helpful to the job situation. this is what he said. >> they can pretend giving the rich tax breaks creates jobs but we know in the past decade it doesn't. if that were the case, mr.
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president, the economy would be booming. >> let me give you some figures that aren't fantasy. over 700,000 small businesses pay taxes as individuals. they would be hit by raising the top rate above 250,000. 700,000 of our most productive and effective small businesses. that's 50% of small business income and 25% of the workforce in the middle of a recession. >> democrats do point out a lot of those people do include people who are doing quite well, whether they're law partners or other individual business owners who are not exactly the typical small business owner, mom and pop store. >> i understand that. the question is, is it a good idea to raise taxes on 700,000 small businesses affecting 50% of small business income in the middle of a recession when we know that small business is the biggest job generator in our country. i mean, look -- >> you had these tax rates in place since 2001.
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what's been the impact on jobs? >> imagine how much worse it would have been had we had the higher tax rate. this argument is over, david. you and i can continue to engage in it but it's over. the senate voted yesterday. every republican and five democrats said we're not raising taxes on anybody in the middle of a recession. >> bottom line on the extension of tax rates, unemployment benefits being extended, you see a compromise here in short order? >> i think the american people expect us to work together to make sure their taxes don't go up. we're working on that package. we've had more conversations the last two weeks than the last two years and i think we're going to get there. >> assuming that's the case, would that also open the door then for debate and actual ratification to start nuclear arms treaty with russia? >> look, i don't set the agenda in the senate. 42 republicans sent our friends on the other side of the aisle earlier this week saying two things we need to do first is decide what peoples tax rates are going to be come january 1 and decide how we're going to
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fund the government for the next ten months. we haven't done that either. once we get those things out of the way, what you do with the balance of the time is up to the majority leader. he sets the schedule. he will have to decide whether or not to the bring up the treaty. >> do you see it being ratified in the lame duck session? >> i have no idea. >> are you prepared to vote to ratify it? >> i haven't made a decision on how i'm going to vote. >> let me talk about the debt. the debt commission proposal came out earlier in the week and here are some of the highlights. tough medicine in terms of what they propose. social security, raise the retirement age, cut future benefit increases, eliminate mortgage deduction, increase federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon, federal spending cap security and nonsecurity spending, freeze federal pay for three years, eliminate congressional earmarks. you said if this were a proposal you would be behind it. you had three senators who you appointed to this commission all of whom voted for it. are you now prepared to endorse this and be a catalyst to get some of these measures passed? >> first, let me say, i was extremely proud of my appointments.
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senator coburn, crapo, senator gregg. they supported not because they liked every part of it, but because they thought this comprehensive recommendation underscored how deep-seated this problem is. this is an enormous problem. i think the message to us is let's see what we can do with the president. you cannot do entitlement reform and, for your viewers, entitlements mean long-term liabilities set by law. we don't even vote on them every year. so many of them very popular, social security, medicare and the like. you cannot do entitlement reform with just one party. you can only do entitlement reform on a bipartisan basis. the message to us, coming out of this deficit reduction report is that it's time for the president of the united states and people like john boehner and myself and others and to sit down and talk about what we can do make sure we have the same kind of country
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for our children and grandchildren that our parents left for us. >> politicians make these promises. the president said there has to be broad sacrifices. why can't you say whether you'll specifically endorse this plan and what you plan to do as a party and a leader to make painful choices? >> it would be absolutely irresponsible to sit here on a sunday talk show and blow the talks by starting to endorse and rule out things. what i'm saying is this is the road map. we need to sit down with the president, see what we can do together. the only way we will actually accomplish something -- i want to actually accomplish something. >> do you endorse these specific proposals? >> what i endorse is the effort to underscore the magnitude of the problem. and i'm prepared to sit down with the president and figure out what we can do on a bipartisan basis. that's what this report was about. now it's time to do something. >> let me ask you about this wikileaks controversy. how much damage has been done here? what's the real story that you're focused on?
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>> i think the man is a high-tech terrorist. he has done an enormous -- >> assange? >> yes. he has done enormous damage to our country. and i think he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. and if that becomes a problem, we need to change the law. i think it's done enormous damage to our country and to our relationships with our allies around the world. >> is there a question of incompetence here on the obama administration in your mind about how this happened? >> well, i'm sure that they're going to pursue the way it happened internally as well. i hear that they know who did it. that individual also should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and they need to be looking at how we can avoid this in the future. >> that is the issue of information sharing. and secretary of state clinton has said part of the problem after 9/11, more emphasis on information sharing. she specifically said that the pentagon has more access to these cables and ultimately that's where private manning, who is accused of doing this,
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got that information. is information sharing the problem, the ability to download information in the government? >> i don't know. but we sure need to look at it thoroughly because this is a huge problem. >> i want to ask you, finally, about your measure of the president politically at this juncture. you had an opportunity to sit down with him. you said at the outset of this interview it's more talking you've done with him face to face as you've done in a while as you met with other congressional representatives on tuesday. you look at his approval rating. he actually rates a bit higher, which is counter to the conventional wisdom, because he's taken quite a licking here. what's your assessment of his political strength as a political adversary for you now? >> the political thing will play out over the next two years. the thing we need to do now is to figure out how we can work together. the american people didn't send us here to do nothing for the next two years. we've had a regularly scheduled election every two years since
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1788 in this country. what i hope will happen is the president will hear the message of the american people. i think they spoke rather loudly and rather clearly. one pundit described it as a restraining order against what we've been doing the past two years, this splurge of spending and debt, washington takeovers. that needs to stop. hopefully, we can focus on things we agree on. for example, the president has apparently secured an agreement with korea with regard to trade. that's something i'm very likely to support, can support. >> and you consider that a big accomplishment by him? he was criticized roundly leaving south korea without that free trade deal. he waited for it and he got it. >> if he now has an agreement, that's something we ought to go forward with. by the way, we ought to do the colombia agreement and the panama agreement as well, which have been languishing for years. >> your goal is to make him a one-term president.
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>> what's so unusual about that? >> what makes you think he's vulnerable to being a one-term president that you could succeed? >> i don't think we ought to be talking about what happens two years from now. >> but you did talk about it. you said you want him to be a one-term president and that's your goal. >> he wants to be a two-term president. i want him to be a one-term president. the american people put us in charge for two more years. we need to have a relationship and see what we can do working together. i hope he pivots and starts helping us reduce spending, reduce debt, ratify trade deals. he's in favor of nucar power. so are most of my members. there are things we can do together for the american people that would be very important. >> you predict he could become a born-again moderate. >> i hope so. >> is that playing out in this tax debate? >> we'll find out. >> you're confident it will. >> dan roast wrote in "the post" the two models we've been looking at for six months, the harry truman and bill clinton model. truman decided to run against the congress, worked for him.
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clinton decided to do things with the congress. it worked for him in '96. my view is we're all here to do the people's business for the next two years. to the extent that the president wants to do things that i and my members are comfortable with, we want to do that for the country. >> is he tougher than a lot of people think in terms of being vulnerable than people think? >> look, i like his personally. we have different political agendas, but there will be some overlap and, hopefully, we can find some way to work together. >> before you go this morning, don't ask, don't tell, the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, will that ban be lifted? >> people talk as if that's the only issue. the defense bill, that also has abortions in military hospitals in that bill. the defense bill, it typically takes two weeks. i don't see how we can possibly finish the defense authorization bill, a two-week bill, fully aside from these controversial items in it, there are a whole lot of other things in it, before the end of the year. >> but even as you get into january, in your mind, do you think the support is there to
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lift the ban in congress? >> my personal view is that senator mccain is correct on this. i tend to follow his lead. we'll find out when we finally get around to debating this bill, which i do not think will be before the end of the year. >> we'll leave it there. thank you. appreciate it. the view from the democrats on all the looming battles in congress, tax cuts, deficit commission, gays in the military. senator kerry will be here next. plus, our political roundtable weighs in. from "the new york times," columnist tom friedman and david brooks, republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. humpback calf and its mother are almost inseparable. she lifts her calf to its first breath of air, then protects it on the long journey to their feeding grounds. one of the most important things you can do is help the next generation. at pacific life, we offer financial solutions to accomplish just that. ask a financial professional about pacific life.
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coming up, the politics of the lame duck session. what can congress get done before january? my exclusive guests, chair of the foreign relations committee, john kerry. ah, it's stinging a little bit more than usual!
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we are back, joined now by the other side of the aisle, democrat from massachusetts senator john kerry. welcome. glad to have you in the studio. >> glad to be here. >> so, the big news is tax cuts, unemployment benefits. senator mcconnell was careful in his language, but seemed to suggest a deal is at hand. where are we? >> david, i think there will be an agreement because yesterday's vote made it very, very clear that the enormous divide between the republicans and democrats. republicans are fighting to keep in place a tax policy that has failed over the last eight years. it has failed. we have had a net loss of jobs. and what we've seen is a republican party that's absolutely prepared to deny unemployment insurance to people
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who have been laid off, who can't pay their bills, who want to put food on the table for their families. they've said no. we're willing to hold that hostage so we can give the wealthiest people in the country a bonus tax cut. what i mean by that is people aren't focused on the fact that under the democratic proposal, everybody in america got a tax cut. the wealthiest people in america got a tax cut, up to the $250,000 of income. what they're fighting for is to give those people who earned more than a million dollars a year a bonus tax cut above that, even though it's the least effective way of creating jobs and putting impact into the economy. >> senator, isn't it true that the president's own economic advisers have said to him at this juncture, look, you may feel like you've drawn a line in the sand, no extension for tax cuts on the wealthiest americans, but that means you could lose more jobs, you could have a worsening job
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situation if you don't extend these -- >> let me tell you -- >> -- if you don't extend these tax cuts now for a temporary period. >> we want to extend tax cuts for every single american but up to the level that makes sense in terms of our economy. you talk about uncertainty of the economy, how uncertainty is there to our economy when you add $800 billion to the deficit? >> but the president seems willing to deal is the point. there may be disagreement but is he willing to deal? >> what is important to understand is how bankrupt, how fundamentally reckless their position is and has been. and the fact is -- let me go a little bigger here for a minute. our country is challenged economically as never before. people talk about american exceptionalism and how there's this sort of automatic for america. yes, we are exceptional but we're exceptional when we do exceptional things, when we behave exceptionally. we're not doing that today. we're locked down into a gridlock status where other countries are racing by us. i'll give you an example. over the next 20 years, $600 billion is going to be invested
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in green technology, green energy. new jobs that could be for americans. 90% of that investment is going to be in other countries, david. >> by the chinese. >> by the chinese and a lot of other people. two years ago, china produced 5% of the world's solar panels. today they produce 60%. we're not even in the game. we invented this technology, at the bell laboratories 50 years ago. we don't have one company in the top ten companies of the world. shame on us. the point i'm making is that you can't just talk about american exceptionalism and then sit around and feed the frenzy of this tax cut at the upper end. you've got to invest in america. >> a lot of people look at this, especially liberal senators, and say absolutely right. senator kerry has it exactly right. then why is the president caving to the republicans? >> he's not. >> but wait a minute. but what is the political
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fallout if the president makes a deal where he might get an extension of unemployment benefits but all of these tax cuts are extended for a period of time, including on the wealthiest americans. >> let me tell you what the president is fighting for, and appropriately. first of all, the president is not caving. the president insisted that we have the votes we had yesterday so that america could see what the republicans are fighting for and they could see what we're fighting for. his preferred position is $250,000, give every american a tax cut up to $250,000 but don't, don't put money back into the pockets of people who may never invest it in the united states. if you're earning more than $1 million a year, that investment, when you give that tax cut, you get about a 30 cent return on the dollar given. if you give unemployment insurance, you get $1.60 back on the dollar you put in. there are multiplier effects. they're a reality of our economic laws. the republicans are ignoring them in order to feed that upper end. and they're willing to hold unemployment compensation
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hostage to that desired bonus tax cut. >> you heard there also might be a deal on that as well. lets say there's a deal. >> here is the problem. you just have the minority leader sitting here for whatever period of time and all he talked about was the need to come to them. all he talked about is that if they could do something that makes us comfortable. that's not how you compromise. they need to have a little discomfort, just as we have a little discomfort. >> what does the president do to create that discomfort? would you not agree that politically, the problem for the president has been he has done nothing to make the republicans uncomfortable. >> just a minute, david. let me take you on, on that. the president of the united states came into office with a president who left him with a $5 trillion add-on to the debt of this country, an unprecedented financial crisis. the fact is that the t.a.r.p. that we passed that everybody hates -- they hate the word, they hate the concept. it saved countless number of jobs in this country. the recovery act saved millions of jobs in this country and
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brought our financial system back from the brink. wall street ought to be singing this president's praises. we've had a 60% increase in the stock market in two years. how often does that happen? you have $3 trillion increase in the net value of the fortune 500 companies. $3 trillion increase in two years under george bush and eight years it only increased by several hundred billion. you have the hire act. republicans opposed it. it created hundreds of thousands of jobs. recovery act, the small business act. >> i'm asking you a political question, where do you create the discomfort? you know the game here. as a senator, you ran for president, you know the pressure points in washington. >> here is what the president is doing. the president is fighting to get unemployment insurance that they have held hostage. this is the point. people need to focus in america. the republicans have been willing to hold unemployment insurance hostage to this bonus tax cut that has the least impact and adds to the deficit. and the phony recklessness of
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their position is this -- they've said for months we can't give you unemployment compensation because it's unpaid for and it will add to the deficit but yesterday they were willing to vote for a $4 trillion increase that wipes out everything the debt commission is doing in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people. now, the president's prepared to compromise, to get unemployment insurance, to get the work for pay tax cut, child care credit tax cut, to get additional tax cuts that go to average people and will create jobs, but he wants to do more than that. this is the most important difference between us and them. the republican agenda is tax cut and cut spending. we cannot cut our way to competition with other countries. if we're going to be a great power, if we're going to project in the world, if we're going to put america back to work and be part of the $6 trillion market that is new energy market of the future with 6 billion users, we need to invest in america's future. and the president is fighting to
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get an infrastructure development effort in america so we regrow our own country. he is fighting for an energy policy that they fought against all last year, delayed and delayed and delayed, even though we made compromise after compromise. and i know that because i was negotiating it, and we need r & d, science, technology, engineering, math. we need to kick america into gear. this is our sputnik moment. we've sort of seen sputnik going across the sky, but we've done nothing similar to what we did in the 1960s to respond to it. >> i want to get you to a couple of other matters that are very important. wikileaks, you heard senator mcconnell say this was a high-tech terrorist. secretary gates, defense secretary, of course, had a slightly different view of what the fallout actually is. this is what he said this week. i want to show it. >> now i've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown,
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as a game changer and so on. i think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. the fact is, governments deal with the united states because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us and not because they believe we can keep secrets. >> do you disagree with that in terms of what the damage done here is? >> i think there is damage and maybe a little more profound than the secretary -- i don't think it goes to the extent that some people are saying but, yes, there is real damage. social security numbers of individuals have been made public. technology about roadside bombs has been made public. the relationship of a president, let's say, of yemen, who is involved in helping us fight domestic terror in yemen, has been exposed for parts of his relationship with the united states that can be very damaging to our efforts there.
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there are many similar kinds of efforts. in germany, people are calling for the return of the ambassador. in other places they won't talk to some of our people for a while. this hurts -- >> have some ambassadors have been removed from countries? >> i can't tell you but at some point people will say they can't work with us and they'll say that quietly and behind the scenes. i was involved when the pentagon papers came out. this has no relationship to something like that. this is voyeurism. this is an anasrchycal by someone who wants attention that is not revealing some truth about a government lying or a policy that's been misled. this is just letting people in on the inside of something where it has great ability to undo our ability to protect the interest of our country. >> i want to ask you finally --
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this is a bigger topic than we can get into all the details of. i want to ask you about afghanistan, the president visiting the troops there, a surprise visit. when we talk about our goals, all the concerns about hamid karzai, the afghan leader, questions about corruptions and so forth, it takes me back to a famous moment before you were senator, april 1971 when you said this on capitol hill about vietnam. >> how do you ask a man to be the last man to die from a mistake. >> my question to you is you look at the landscape of our withdrawal plans in 2014. is it a mistake in afghanistan to think, asked to be the last to die in a war that may not be able to achieve the results that we have laid out for us? >> first of all, i looked at that and said, boy, he needs a haircut. look, in my judgment, afghanistan is just not vietnam. we shouldn't have been in vietnam. it was a surrogate war, civil war, it was a cold war, surrogate war. there are any number of reasons why it was a gigantic mistake. in afghanistan, we're there for
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a purpose. i don't believe we need the size of the footprint doing everything we're doing. i've said that many times publicly. i don't think the president, in the long run, wants to do that, which is why he has committed to this transition. i believe the president and our military and our policy is on the right track. and that track is to turn this over to the afghans as rapidly as possible in a way that meets their needs to have sufficient stability and capacity to survive. >> can we do that before 2014? >> -- and our needs to be able to prosecutor counterterrorism efforts. i think you can do a lot of counterterrorism with a smaller footprint and still manage the progress of afghanistan. most of that, in my judgment, will depend on what we're succeeding and doing in pakistan. pakistan is as much the key to the outcome in afghanistan as anything else. can we do it by 2014? yes, i believe we can and i
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think the president is absolutely intent on preventing this from being the mistake that begged the question that i posed in 1971. >> we'll leave it there. senator kerry, thank you very much as always. coming up next, america's anxiety, questions about the economy, terrorism and the direction of the country. our roundtable weighs in on our discussion so far, the question of politics and leadership. from "the new york times," tom friedman and david brooks. republican strategist mike murphy and the bbc's katty kay. [ male announcer ] you are a business pro. lord of the carry-on. sovereign of the security line. you never take an upgrade for granted. and you rent from national. because only national lets you choose any car in the aisle. and go.
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republican strategist, mike murphy and "new york times" tom friedman and his colleague, david brooks. welcome to all of you. so much to get to. david brooks, this sense of limbo we're in in the country, are we going to recover from this economy? is there another terrorist threat out there? the fallout from wikileaks, what about the debt? what's going to get done in
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washington? do we learn anything in this moment about the prospect for compromise on taxes just based on what you've heard this morning? >> it depends on what you believe. 67% of the country think the country's in decline. we go through pessimistic phases. i can't remember a pessimistic phase this long. the problem is, we don't know where we want to be in 50 years. president obama talked about building new foundations. new foundations for what? that's the big question that's out there. i would just say as the beginning of an answer to it is that one thing that the united states has that no other country has is that we're a universal nation. people come here from all over the world and we have connections to all over the world. china will never have that. that has to be the basis once we move forward. once we have that defined, we know what we can compromise, what we can work with. >> this is a cartoon that caught my eye this week. i'll put it on the screen. you see it there from chris weyant. it's obama and boehner, in the spirit of bipartisanship, why don't you take a step to the
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middle first into the chasm. on unemployment benefits, we're seeing a deal. mitch mcconnell doesn't want to negotiate on "meet the press." but was signaling they're close. >> no, that was his sunshine-sending strategy there. something is happening. something is going to start. they'll get the bush tax cuts, even though we're doing a silly political litigation as we did in the election, democrats think the big word is millionaire, democrats think the big word is jobs. it's in the president's interest to understand two things happened in the election. people want something to get done and they want the country to move right economically. so if he moves right economically, something will get done. >> this is for katty, a question about, are we having the right conversation? i'll put it up on the screen here. you see the down arrow in too many cases lasting for too long. you see the change of jobs going up last month but november only 39,000 new jobs. that sense of anxiety and
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whether we're talking about all this austerity and cutting the debt. what about investing in the economy? are we having the right conversation? >> i think that is exactly what's producing anxiety in ordinary americans and to get back to david's point. there is a sense of where the country is going and americans are thinking if i haven't got a job and i don't see how we're going to get out of this slump, i'm worried for the first time in generations that i might not be passing on a better country to my children. my children might not be better off, better educated than i am. that is tied in with these unemployment numbers. that's how it's affecting people directly. and what's interesting, to me, looking at the bright spot for america is that you don't have what you've got in europe where tens of thousands of people are taking to the streets, demanding that the state intervene and give them those jobs or give them those benefits. this is the saving grace for america and always has been. they want to do it themselves. it's anxiety not anger at the government people are feeling. they want to fix this problem themselves. >> tom friedman, you wrote this week a column
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that was so popular about wiki-china. explain the premise and why that had such traction in terms of being top of mind what you're thinking about. >> what if we could read china's cables about us, basically. what the chinese would be saying, i think, is how polarizing the americans are about all the wrong things. that's what i think is really the big story right now, david. what people want to know, first of all, from president obama and our political leaders, where are we going? if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. so, it starts with, what world are you in? we're in a flat world, competing with 2 billion people just like us. that's the first reality. in the second reality, in that kind of world, how do you get rich, where you have to make more people's lives more productive, more secure, more entertained and more healthy? you have to do that with such good infrastructure and such a productive american educated worker that one american worker can be paid
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for like five chinese. that's what you need, then what is the hybrid politics that says we've got to cut here so we can invest over there, okay? we need to raise gas taxes or carbon taxes to get money so we can actually cut payroll taxes and encourage businesses to invest in this country. so i think what people are really looking for is a hybrid politics. what they're looking for is not too parties that grudgingly compromise on their ideologies, but come together for a strategic collaboration. >> that interests me, mike murphy, something in "the new york times" this week, and i'll put it up on the screen. it gets to something important in terms of political calculus. he writes, mr. obama has invariably sought to position himself halfway between traditionalism and reform just as his vague notions of hope and change during the 2008 campaign were meant to appeal simultaneously to both disaffected independent voters and core progressives. in virtually every case, he has
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satisfied snowone. he realizes that republicans have the leverage on tax cuts right now. liberals will be very, very unhappy. they are unhappy about that. they feel like they're caving. you have this disaffected middle that doesn't necessarily agree with tom that says government has to play a big role in investing in some of this new economy. >> he's caught because his base has become more liberal in the congress because of many of the losses. he ought to cut them loose. the losing team, lost an historic election. ideology is discredited. his problem is, he campaigned in the center and governed from the left. his problem now is that he looks weak and secondary to the congressional battle. he ought to get out in front. he ought to pivot. i think you can create -- tom kind of implies this, kind of a national interest economic agenda to link it to. we are in a tremendous economic competition right now. and it does need a rightward move on things and ought to call to kesk the republicans for entitlements. campaigned on it. it will be good for the country, politically tough for
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republicans. but he would become the leader -- >> republicans won't specify to painful choices when this is where they say they have the mandate to cut spending, but yet they're hesitant to do that. >> nobody will specify painful choice. one word that politicians can't say at the moment is that you have to sacrifice. we're living in this age of entitlement where there is an almost messianic attitude to either raising taxes or cutting spending from both democrats and republicans. neither side wants to give on those and neither side wants to make the tough choices that it's going to take. >> at the service level, katty is right, nobody is going to step out and say, make the painful choices. inside, in private conversations, they're having a different conversation. i guarantee you right now at the white house they're having serious conversations at tax reform, big tax reform. in the republican party, republicans like paul ryan are campaigning within the republican caucus for serious entitlement reform. pushback from the leadership, obviously. the level of the private conversations, which are more inspiring than what we see. >> what do we do -- what does it
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do for the country if we have inspiring private conversations? >> but what mitch mcconnell said today was important that he was willing to sit down. the willingness -- i thought what he said today was quite newsworthy. he didn't commit himself to too much but he said he was willing to have a meeting. you don't say that unless you're willing to put a lot of stuff on the table that the democrats want. >> it has to start on the inside and has to be forced on the voters. it's easy to say in a poll you want all this sacrifice. most of the time, voters look at sacrifice, grab the person suggesting it and throw him into the political wood chipper. politicians are turned into voters. the retired politicians are 5-1 for it. active politicians were split 50/50. that's active participation of some democrats. this is where it begins inside. it is a hopeful sign. >> you were saying that this 40% of the middle or mike was saying that, i'm not sure who. but they're against what's going on. i disagree. i think they will be for it if they think the president has a plan to make america great
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again. if they don't think he has a plan for that, but just doing health care, they're going to say i don't want to spend a dime. what they're looking for is something big. we're doing things that are small and easy when we need to be doing things that are big and hard. >> it was possible in 92. you had ross perot in 1992 came in, campaigned on a platform of reducing the deficit. he got votes on it and you there was a very big difference. in '92, interest rates were 8%. american voters were feeling the pain directly. anyone with a car payment, mortgage was feeling the pain of the deficit. they're not feeling it today. >> i want to come back, continue this. also talk about the political leadership questions. who leads us out of the sense of anxiety? nnouncer ] olay professional pro-x.
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gecko: well...i'd hate to be stanley. geico. 15 minutes could save you 15 percent. stella: hmmm. we're getting new medicare benefits from the new healthcare law. jane: yea. most people will get free cancer screenings. and 50 percent off of brand name prescription drugs if you're in the donut hole. stella: you read my paper. jane: i went to medicare.gov. it's open enrollment, you know. so i checked out all the options and found a better plan to fit my budget. stella: well, you know what they say...knowledge... jane: knowledge is power. we're back. more from our roundtable with our sense of anxiety and who leads us out of this. david brooks, i want to put this back on the screen because i think it's instructive in terms of where the president rates in his approval compared to reagan and clinton, november '82 and '94? they both suffered big mid-term
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defeats and we know how that played out in terms of second terms. is conventional wisdom wrong that somehow obama is vulnerable and he has weakened? is he, in fact, after all the beatings he has taken, is he stronger political? >> conventional wisdom is never wrong. he is weaker than those guys. the economy is not reagan's economy or clinton's economy. and he's good nationally but we don't run elections nationally, we run in ohio, indiana, north carolina and places like that and he is extremely weak there. the important thing that happened this week is the collapse of liberal morale. a lot of liberals have said he's just not strong, he's not fighting. brother murphy, as much as i love you, he can't just lead those guys as the losing team. he's a democrat and has to rally those guys and win back the senate. i think he's strong, a great politician. he'll be back. but i think the troubles have been mounting on the left and center. >> i tried to raise this with senator kerry. i'm not sure i got a very clear answer on this, which is, politically, what does the president do to make life hard
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for republicans? i've talked to republicans who say, he's making it very easy for us to say no. >> the meanest thing you can do in politics is steal the other guy's act. he needs to make big moves, move ideologically. he's never going to get the left back. he's broken their hearts and they are the losing team in numbers. he can't completely cut them off but he can't do what he did for the last two years which is let them drive. he needs to run against all of them and create this agenda of economic nationalism with a conservative tilt. he has to move. democrats will keep doing this millionaire thing. it's been beaten to death. we keep winning that. i'm a partisan republican. i'm happy to wait two years, get a republican president and run the table which we have a good shot at now. >> what can we win? >> right now, we can run the economy.
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>> that's it? >> we win that, we win the election. >> tom friedman, i want to cover the wikileaks fallout, hillary clinton on the cover with a number of phones to her ears trying to mitigate the damage here. what have we learned and what really hurts about all this? >> well, i think the thing that we've already is how we're leaking power. that's my view of it. what are we doing? we're begging the saudis to not have their private donors fund al qaeda. what do we do? borrow money from china, cycle it through our cars, send it to saudi arabia, they send it to the taliban, their private individuals, and then our soldiers go over and try to kill them. we're begging china. please, china. north korea wants to send missile parts through north beijing airport. can you not do that? no, can't do that either. why are we in this situation? basically we were hooked on oil, addicted to oil and we're addicted to credit. there's a fundamental law of geopolitics. addicts never tell the truth to their pushers. china is our credit pusher, saudi arabia is our oil pusher.
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and we cannot have a frank conversation with them because we are in their debt. >> can i -- i rarely disagree with either of these guys but let me disagree with you, tom, on this one. >> there's extra points, by the way for friedman. >> when jimmy carter was president, did he snap his fingers and the country do what he wanted? when bill clinton, i covered those in summits in 93, when ronald reagan was trying to place missiles in europe, didn't snap our 15 fingers. china attacked us in north korea. i'm not sure -- i think what it shows -- i'm not sure we're leaking power. we have problems that you described. the other thing it shows is there's no secret conspiracy, the stuff going on inside, which these cables reveal, is stuff that we, as journalists, reveal every day. people who think there's some secret, hidden conspiracy in government is just not true. >> what about the fallout? will this really hurt america? >> i think it hurts the fact
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that there are not back channels and perhaps people that are willing to share information with american diplomats are not going to be able to do so. the senior german official resigned because he was leaked as sharing information and being useful to american diplomats and a canadian ambassador might be resigning on the same basis. i think having people around the world who are now thinking twice about whether or not they're going to have private conversations with american dip platts doesn't help america. i agree with tom. it shows that this is a superpower whose powers are not so super anymore. that when it comes to -- we had a period after the end of the cold war where america was the only big guy on the block and you could get other countries to do what you wanted in very big questions and you haven't got that now. china, north korea, russia even. we're having to do deals with moscow to get what we want there. and we're not always getting it when it comes to -- >> that was a bipolar world. the reason we couldn't do a lot of that, there was a soviet union on the other side. that soviet union is collapsed now. and we should have to have more leverage. >> we were the big guy. >> political strategy of abdicating any responsibility.
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because big brother america will do it. the middle east is a perfect example. go clean up every problem we have and in the meantime we cash in on oil. problem with the wikileaks thing, it was pure destruction, huge monkey wrench in the machinery of american diplomacy. i feel sorry more than anybody else, for the u.s. ambassador in france. french horn minister will play that stuff not max. thousand small little negotiations, our team now is playing with a sand bag tied around it, which is bad for america. this was an act of treason. >> to the end of that, politics of this -- i want to touch on how this was used and more broadly. it was interesting, the theory of the case for the right, who some of the players are on the right. romney on jay leno, sarah palin continues to be out there in big form with her book. and joe scarborough, in terms of how the right is dealing with sarah palin. the most talked about figure in the gop is a reality show star who cannot be elected and yet the same leaders who fret that
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sarah palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private. enough, it's time for the gop to man up. and my question is, what impact does she have, whether she runs or doesn't run, because she's a force. >> huge force. huge force now. 14 months away, even though that sounds painfully close to when the caucuses and primaries may begin. i think -- i've been a critic all along, started on this show, at the republican convention, saying i thought she was a bad vp choice. she's a poison pill in the general election, i believed. in the republican primaries, particularly in the movement which will win the iowa caucus and get a lot of momentum, she's very, very powerful, if she runs. i think she'll have a half life but will be a terrifically powerful force, in some ways for good, she's kind of a polemicist, but as a candidate, she would be a disaster. and we'll see if other republicans start to take that position quietly. a lot of them do. >> tom friedman, the president
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we saw -- we have pictures of the president's surprise trip to afghanistan in the holiday season to buck up the troops but also coming at a time when we have a review under way of our afghanistan policy. you heard senator kerry say he thinks the footprint can get a lot smaller. where are we on afghanistan and how fraught do you think this review process will be? >> to me, david, the first rule of middle east politics is the middle east only puts a smile on your face when it starts with them, when they want it more than we do. whether it was camp david or oslo peace agreement. when you read the wikileaks and it's all about, who is going to pay me which amount of money to do what you want? we are basically paying our afghan and pakistani partners to be two-faced because if we didn't pay them to be two-faced, they would be one-faced and all against us. that is not a winning hand. >> that's what we're up against right now. we're going to have to leave it there. thank you all very much. before we go, a quick programming note. be sure to join us next week. an exclusive interview with new york city mayor michael bloomberg on leadership and

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